How Numbers Lie: The Pitfalls of Relying Solely on Quantitative Measurements

Presented by: Pat Wagner

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Program Number: RI 115

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How would you know that a neighborhood was prosperous? By numbers from a census report, or by driving around, looking at the size of the homes, the make of the cars, the condition of the roads, and how the inhabitants were dressed? If the numbers said one thing, and the physical evidence showed another, which would have more credibility with you?


  • Introduction: How Do We Measure Or Describe Success?
  • The Key Idea: Counting Is Only One Way To Discuss Success
  • The Current Obsession With Quantitative Benchmarks
  • How Can Numbers Fail: What Data Will You Ignore?
  • What People Say And Do, And How They Behave
  • Descriptive Benchmarks: Physical Evidence
  • Stories About Success And Failure


  • Create realistic descriptions of goals and outcomes.
  • Share the emotional success of projects.
  • Add substance to statistics in reports.

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